rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Sports » US Open: Sharapova sparkles on return to grand slam stage

US Open: Sharapova sparkles on return to grand slam stage

August 29, 2017 10:50 IST

Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates winning her first round match against Romania's Simona Halep on Day 1 of the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City on Monday

IMAGE: Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates winning her first round match against Romania's Simona Halep on Day 1 of the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City on Monday. Photograph: Elsa/Getty Images

Maria Sharapova proved she will be someone to contend with for the US Open crown after the Russian wild card outlasted second seed Simona Halep 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 on Monday to get the year's final grand slam off to an electrifying start.

Still shaking off the rust from a 15-month doping ban and a string of nagging injuries, the 30-year-old Sharapova needed all her skill, determination and two hours and 44 minutes to snatch victory in front of a packed Arthur Ashe stadium.

The victory becomes the highlight of what has been a torturous comeback for the former world number one, who returned to tennis in April after being banned for testing positive for metabolic modulator meldonium at last year's Australian Open.

Her progress has been slowed by a thigh injury that forced her out of the Italian Open in May and more recently left arm issues that took her out of the second round at Stanford earlier this month.

However, there was no hint of distress against an in-form Halep as she improved her record to 7-0 against the feisty Romanian in an opening round clash that was played with the intensity more befitting of a final.

"You sometimes wonder why you put in all the work and this is exactly why," said Sharapova after playing in her first grand slam match in nearly two years.

'Behind all these crystals and little black dresses this girl has a lot of grit and she's not going anywhere'

IMAGE: 'Behind all these crystals and little black dresses this girl has a lot of grit and she's not going anywhere'. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

"No matter my record against her it's always been tough, no matter what tournament, no matter where we played I knew I had to work for it."

Rarely do grand slams serve up such a mouth-watering treat in the opening round.

With the US Open draws ravaged by injuries and withdrawals, Sharapova provided a splash of glitz and glamour to the tournament strolling onto the floodlit court like it was catwalk in a jet black tennis dress that sparkled with Swarovski crystals.

"Behind all these crystals and little black dresses this girl has a lot of grit and she's not going anywhere," Sharapova told the crowd.

A wild card entry and ranked outside the top 100, Sharapova could have found herself up against anyone but the draw gave her no favours by slotting her in against Halep.

"Prime time baby," screamed Sharapova, now 18-0 in night time matches on Arthur Ashe.

"These are the opportunities that you play for. When I was young and I was coming to New York it was everything, the rush, the people, the crowd, the noise and now I embrace every moment of it and I love it.

World No 2 Simona Halep put up a fight in the 2nd set

IMAGE: World No 2 Simona Halep put up a fight in the 2nd set to draw level. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

"Now I can't wait for more."

Adding some heat to contest, Halep was one of several players to express their displeasure over the five-time grand slam winner being granted wild card entries into tournaments instead of having to wade into qualifiers.

Playing with freedom and power Sharapova ran the Romanian from pillar to post as she took charge going up a set and 4-1 in the second.

Halep, however, was not about to surrender, sweeping the next five games to level the contest.

Sharapova's game is not yet firing on all cylinders but the Russian's competitive fires still burn bright ands he broke Halep to open the third set then grimly hung on for the win, dropping to her knees and bursting into tears as the Romanian's return sailed long.

"You never know what you are going to feel until you win that match point," said Sharapova. "To come out in the third set and have that chance again and winning it, those are the moments I can be proud of."

Source:
© Copyright 2017 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.